Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Jesus Miraculously Feeds Thousands
THE 12 apostles have enjoyed a remarkable preaching tour throughout Galilee. Now, shortly after John’s execution, they return to Jesus and relate their wonderful experiences. Seeing that they are tired and that so many people are coming and going that they don’t even have time to eat, Jesus says: ‘Let us go off by ourselves to a lonely place where you can rest up.’
Boarding their boat, probably near Capernaum, they head for an out-of-the-way place, evidently east of the Jordan beyond Bethsaida. Many people, however, see them leave, and others learn about it. These all run ahead along the shore, and when the boat lands, they are there to meet them.
Getting out of the boat and seeing the great crowd, Jesus is moved with pity because the people are as sheep without a shepherd. So he heals their sick and begins teaching them many things.
Quickly the time passes, and Jesus’ disciples come to him and say: “The place is isolated, and the hour is already late. Send them away, that they may go off into the countryside and villages round about and buy themselves something to eat.”
However, in reply Jesus says: “You give them something to eat.” Then, since Jesus already knew what he was going to do, he tested Philip by asking him: “Where shall we buy loaves for these to eat?”
From Philip’s viewpoint the situation is impossible. Why, there are about 5,000 men, and probably well over 10,000 people counting also women and children! “Two hundred denarii [a denarius was then a day’s wage] worth of loaves is not enough for them, so that each one may get a little,” Philip responds.
Perhaps to show the impossibility of feeding so many, Andrew volunteers: “Here is a little boy that has five barley loaves and two small fishes,” adding: “But what are these among so many?”
Since it is springtime, just before the Passover of 32 C.E., there is a lot of green grass. So Jesus has his disciples tell the people to recline on the grass in groups of 50 and of a 100. He takes the five loaves and two fishes, looks to heaven, and says a blessing. Then he begins breaking the loaves and dividing up the fishes. He gives these to his disciples, who, in turn, distribute them to the people. Amazingly, all the people eat until they have had enough!
Afterward Jesus tells his disciples: “Gather together the fragments that remain over, so that nothing is wasted.” When they do, they fill 12 baskets with the leftovers from what they have eaten! Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13.
◆ Why does Jesus seek a place of privacy for his apostles?
◆ Where does Jesus take his disciples, and why does their need for rest go unfulfilled?
◆ When it becomes late, what do the disciples urge, but how does Jesus care for the people?